In 2006, builders earned approval in Red Bank to build a multiple use development in the west side of town that would incorporate apartments and retail units in a contemporary space with a design plan aimed at attracting train commuters and young professionals.
Despite having significant muscle behind the project in the form of Metrovation Capital, a development company as much responsible for the revitalization of Red Bank’s downtown as any other, a lengthy lawsuit and a sour economy put the project on indefinite hold.
At Thursday’s Zoning Board meeting, Metrovation Principal Chris Cole was back, largely with the same plan that was approved prior, but looking for a couple of variances and promising that if approvals are granted construction on the project could begin as early as next year.
The project, its proposed location on West Front Street across from the Galleria and next to the Two River Theater – and surrounding Danny’s restaurant on three sides – would include 92 one and two-bedroom apartments, a parking garage with 213 spaces, and more than 20,000 square feet of retail room, including room for a Triumph Brewing Company brew pub.
Among the changes being sought are for a height variance – builders want to increase the height of the building from 55 feet to 60 feet 4 inches – and a parking variance to provide less than the 369 spaces required by ordinance, a figure contended by the developer’s parking expert.
“What really makes me excited is the mixed used nature of the project,” Cole told the board in his testimony. “(The project) gives interest to a residential market that does not have a lot of differentiation right now.”
Metrovation and Cole are responsible for restoring and rehabilitating many spaces in downtown Red Bank, including the bank space now inhabited by Smith and Barney, the building home to Funk and Standard, and the kitchen space occupied by Good Karma Café. Metrovation is also responsible for many large-scale developments, including the outdoor mall Grove at Shrewsbury.
Though the housing market has failed to rebound following its fall nearly four years ago, Cole said he sees potential in the West Side Loft project, specifically because it provides upscale rental opportunities for young professionals seeking them more often now and in a community lacking them.
The west side of town is also appealing to Cole, who considers it up-and-coming.
“That area of town as a tremendous amount of potential,” he said.
Architect Tom Barton said changes to the retail component include raising ceilings four feet. In the past few years, he said, retail operators have decided that higher ceilings create more dynamic spaces. The old plan, which called for retail ceilings of 20 feet, aren’t what retailers are looking for any more, he said.
Even with the additional height requested, Barton said West Side Lofts would be comparable to several nearby buildings.
The more significant hurdle facing developers is the parking variance.
Though Red Bank’s ordinances call for 369 parking spots, traffic engineer Maurice Rached said he believes the proposed parking garage and its 213 spaces, along with 10 on-street spaces, would be adequate for what’s been proposed. While the board was willing to accept the idea that the retail space and the brew pub likely wouldn’t require the nearly 200 spaces dictated by Red Bank ordinances, they were less optimistic about Rached’s assertion that the West Side Lofts’ 92 apartments would only require one parking space per unit.
The meeting concluded without a vote after nearly three hours of testimony Thursday night. Developers will come before the board at its next meeting at Sept. 1 where there will also be a public hearing.